Christmas is a day set apart in the calendar to celebrate the birth of light on earth – in this instance, one small point of light, represented by the birth of a babe.
The presence of light is a dominant feature in the many pictographs that have been drawn of the birthing scene. In some, a shaft of light descends from the sky to a stable in Bethlehem; in others, the light is more diffuse, lighting up the countryside.
According to the biblical record, “the glory of the Lord shone all about.” Yet, also according to the record, only three shepherds tending their flocks at night are reported to have seen the phenomenon. If the light “shone all about,” one would suppose that everyone would have seen it, and been drawn to the manger to gaze in wonder at the awesome event that had occurred. Or, at the very least, there would have arisen a noisy hubbub of speculation about this strange display of light in the night.
In fact, the number of people who were aware of the light accompanying the greatest event in the history of the world could be counted on the fingers of one hand – the two parents and the three shepherds. There might have been more, but the record does not mention them.
The disciple John, in his description, comments that “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” Apparently the vast majority of people at that time were “in darkness,” which is to say, insensitive and unreceptive to anything outside their normal range of perception. They were busy solving the big problems of the day, whether on a personal or national scale. Those of us today are no better. We consider ourselves well-educated, “enlightened” perhaps, but we rarely perceive anything other than what we are accustomed to seeing. What we “see” is conditioned and controlled by our cultural heredity – we think of important things as vast forces at work across the globe creating conflict between individuals and nations, huge problems that need our attention. We are so focused on the big and the “important” things of the day that we would not be aware of a little point of light that might appear in the midst of all this darkness. Sadly, Hollywood has conditioned us to expect God to act in terms of booming thunder and blazes of lightning ripping across the sky, not a quiet “light shining all about.”
John also made the observation that the light “…lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” This statement has been interpreted in various ways, but it can be taken literally – each one of us was a point of light when we were born into the world. Presumably we still are a point of light, at least potentially.
“In him (the Christ) was life; and the life was the light of men.” There would be no consciousness, no ability to perceive, to understand anything, if it were not for the fact of life. The presence of life establishes what we call mind and the ability to experience emotion. Human beings act as though the fact that they have the ability to think is a cause, but it is only an effect. There is something which has produced this effect. One way of describing that “something” is light.